Sunday, June 18, 2006

Straight spines tingle me...

I am married to the ideal of being promiscuous. I fail to see the reason in being singularly dedicated to a single book. I find little reason to hold one book superior or more arousing than another. The delicacy of a book is never lessened by the sensation coursing my ocular tongue as it gapes through the pages of another book. I cannot but help find myself helpless in the midst of such intoxicating entities such as books. Books, dear, are my undoing, that is, apart from Italy (and things Italian) and women (and fine feminine wonders)! But unlike the latter pair, I feel safer to confess to my infidelity in the company of books, for patriotism and societal morals paint me a lesser man in the wake of other innocent confessions.

A bookstore is nothing short of an orgy. Consider the sheer delight of books beckoning with the slight twist of a finger and a lascivious glance as they colour the shelves arranged in a pitiably military manner. Why, books aren't meant to line indifferent wooden cabinets but should be tastefully placed bringing strong men to their knees. Care and cosseting is never enough or in excess when the target of such affection is an array of splendid books (sorry, chick-lit is excluded). Bookstores (at least in India) seem to spend very little time considering design and seduction. A reader must be invited into the midst of stylish books and never coaxed into wishing to possess one or rather being possessed. Of course, I find it bad taste when someone picks but one book and heads straight to the payment counter. Oh dear! Is that all you wanted? You should have read the newspaper instead! I, for one, can't stop with one. One as a number suits many occasions and rituals, but books surely aren't one of them.

I have a fetish for hardbound books. I pick an interesting book and then whistle away as I look around ensuring that people are busy in their personal affairs and in a flash open it somewhere near the middle and dive between to smell the gum and aging paper. Aaaah! Who needs a Chanel No. 5? The holy trinity of books, food and women can out-do the other, but I still feel that books hold a greater power over me (for I have skipped my dinners and women-friends while in the company of a book). A friend of mine once divulged that the best way to lose me is to lead me into a bookstore and leave immediately. I understood the former part of the demarche but failed to understand why she had added the latter. She later told me, "E, its like why I come to you when I have to get on a diet. The way you describe food to me, I feel like I am having a feast of carrots and juices/ambrosia. I can't let that happen to me in a bookstore."

Paperbacks, of late, are brilliant too. Have you run your finger over the cover of books published by Signet or Vintage (not all)? Close your eyes and shut off all the unnecessary things of this world (which is everything but the wonderful maiden you hold in your hands). Run a finger delicately from the lower left corner of the book to the top left corner. Do you feel the bevel of the title and maybe the author? Oh! Please try it again. Slowly dear, for a woman can never be rushed. I would do it differently. Have you ever held a long satin sash in your hands and lightly flicked it in the air like what makes a whip crack? Preferably choose a red sash if you stand on a meadow against a clear sky. If the sky is clouded and the earth is devoid of the green blush, you might prefer a golden sash, perhaps? The elongated "S" shape is the divine inspiration behind the pattern that the fleshy side of my index finger traces along the cover. Delicious! Penguin, with their orange slaps along the spine, need a change. It is unfortunate if the story is packed in jarring colours and textures which better suit a monitor lizard.

As I mentioned earlier, designing places for books is essential and cannot be
treated as a matter to be disposed of to the hands of a kafir. When I say places, I do not stop with the introduction of appropriate racks and shelves. Why, a reader is vital, isn't she? Where will you host her? Atop that oak shelf? Bear with me while I retch (of course, outside the bookstore). Soft cushion chairs to relax and maybe bean bags. Tables on which heavier books can be placed and reading lamps would be so welcome. Alcoves where a book is being read and a coffee shop with old books would complete the picture so wonderfully. Food and books don't always go together, hence people shouldn't be allowed to take books into the coffee shop or coffee into the bookshop. Simple and thoughtful gestures like cushions which a reader can pick up and drop down near a nook to get the feel of a book or those wooden book rests (which so many people think are only good for holding the Gita or some religious text) would be perfect.

A book should be housed in a manner that befits her mettle and should be attractive to the audience that she would draw. I love designing bookshelves, and of course, filling them with companions for a lifetime. Amongst the ones I designed I only have the sheets for about 2-3 of them. One of them is shaped like a pyramid (in 2-D) with glass and lighting and another is designed like stairs along the wall in a manner quite different. The CCD of my camera has some trouble, else I would have uploaded the pictures of the sketches and design dimensions. The most essential elements of a well designed bookshelf are sufficient lighting, shade and supporting material. Placing books on iron racks without protection or against the window, exposing them to sunlight is genocide. Wooden (paper's grandpa) shelves are the best suited. Be sure to line them with dehumidifiers (e.g. silica gel). Direct light of any sort should be avoided. I would recommend posting a sentry to ensure that the crass do not fold paperbacks over their back, or lick their finger tips while paginating. Urgh! Be sure to clean the shelves often enough.

There is something about a purchase that calls for a lot of dreaming and cooing. Dainty baskets in which one piles books for future careful consideration are a delightful sight. Please spare time at large bookstores to watch fellow lovers or pseuds walk up and down with their baskets. Each container speaks tomes about the person. It is such a pleasure to amble along trying to understand the inner working of the handsome man as he smiles at a copy of The Magic Mountain and adjust his spectacles before he lovingly places it in his basket. Or that cute girl who is busy popping gum out of her curvaceous mouth and books by in authors into her basket. Well, the books in my basket reveal a lot about me too and I hold it close to my self. The satisfaction that I feel when I pick half a dozen books and convince my good-goody side that I will cut down next month, is immeasurable. The sheer sense of power I feel when I unload my cart (softly and carefully) and offer a card (depending on the time of the month) to swipe, as the finishing stroke of a winning day... Nirvana.

Bookstores also offer interesting incidents. One such incident was captured here.
My friend once asked me where I planned to take my wife on a honeymoon. I promptly replied that I would take her to a good bookstore. She smacked her forehead and said, "E, you have to take her to some new place."
"Ok... a new bookstore?"

Once, a lady walked up to me and spoke thus, "Excuse me, will you help me?" I wasn't one to refuse help on a lazy day.
"My daughter is interested in buying books. Could you suggest some good books?"
I was expecting a little girl in pigtails with a toothy smile to steal my heart and attention and I was disappointed to find a young girl, a few years younger than I, walk around a bookshelf towards me. I wanted to drop my jaw and books and shriek, "Buying books NOW!? What have you been doing for all your life?" but I let it pass and asked the embarrassed girl:
"So what do you like to do on a weekend? What in a story enthralls you? Which colour do you like on a Mercedes Benz SL65? Is ethics an issue that interests you? Do you..."
"I am sorry my mother troubled you. I was just looking around and I'll find a book. Thanks."
"Sure", I smiled and returned to my world of books.

How did her mother (who looked very impressed by the questions I shot out) expect me to suggest a book for a daughter without knowing anything about her? I hoped she realised that though the answers would have given me an insight into the working of the squishy mass in her daughter's cranial cavity, it was intended more to frighten than anything else. These "oh you must read it. Its so gooooooood" kind of statements are revolting, if not shallow. I need to know you, understand you before I can recommend anything for you, including books. Try ordering food for someone you love and for another person you have just met. Notice the difference.

At the end of the day What I always love to return to is a warm home with my room defined by many cabinets as the one below. I tried it many times, but most of the times I returned to find books lying sensuously and spread open on my bed. Did you know, that I sleep on the floor because I do not wish to disturb them? My mom thinks it is laziness. Oh god! When will she learn?


  1. Happiness. Contentment. Books - always go together...

  2. i dont read...and i ignorant...
    and mebbe thats why ignarance is bliss

  3. I'm with you on how books seduce you with sight, smell and touch... i can't ever leave a bookstore with a ton of lingering glances and sighs.

    But since one small room is all I can call my home, I prefer the standard cabinet with shelves - to maximize books per volume of space :)

  4. Hmm...all my books are in suitcase right now. :-(
    And E, you have suggested me some excellent books for which I am glad :-)

  5. Dear P,
    Indeed... :-)

    Dear S,
    I am not sure about ignarance, but I agree that ignorance is surely bliss... :-)

    Dear M,
    :-D I agree. What matters is book density in one's rooms. I remember once designing suspended shelves which hang from the ceiling giving the appearance of books floating around. Would be ideal if you could make do with a pedestal fan...

    Dear S,
    Glad to hear that your suitcases are getting packed as they should have long ago! I am honoured to know that I was of some use to you... :-)

  6. wow... that was wonderful reading E! You sure write well even about presumably boring stuff... bookstores and book shelves.

    talent, indeed.

  7. inagardencalledlife!
    i expected flowers and butterflies all around...

    what? allow them to sprawl on the bed and sleep on the floor ?
    and took your wife to a bookstore?

    But i just eat them and try to digest them
    and they give me my endless energy

    so try it sometime...nothing tastes better...


    good to know that you heart books...